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North Hardin senior guard Nick Lewis might not enjoy the anxious moments when he finds his team trailing, but Lewis and his teammates don’t mind the end result.
Lewis and the Trojans are making a habit of earning come-from-behind victories this season and they did it again Monday night. Trailing by nine at halftime, North Hardin rallied to take a third-quarter lead en route to a 51-48 victory over the Central Hardin Bruins in a 17th District game at Ron Bevars Gymnasium.
“We want to win,” Lewis said when asked why the Trojans play so well without a lead. “We have to learn how to come ready to play from the start of the game. We have these lapses during the game. When we fall behind, we do everything to try to win the game. I think it’s our will to win.”
No where was that will to win on display more than Lewis’ effort. He scored nine points to go along with four rebounds and two assists. But it was his defensive performance which drew rave reviews, especially in the second half.
“It does spark us when you see Nick running and pressuring him (Central Hardin senior Troy Squires) all over the place,” said North Hardin senior Tyler Landry, who had 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. “Nick’s a lockdown defender and when you see him diving on the floor and hustling like that, it lifts everyone up. Everyone wants to play harder on defense.”
After Squires scored 17 points in the first half, Lewis locked up Squires in the second, limiting him to two points. Squires only attempted four shots in the final 16 minutes as Lewis harassed him relentlessly.
“I knew from the last game he was a great shooter,” Lewis said. “I just tried to get in his face and not let him get any space. We had to talk on the screens, because they do a good job of getting him open. We were getting lost the first half. That’s why we ended up in the predicament we were in.”
The Trojans (16-7, 5-3 district) locked up the second seed for the district tournament. Central Hardin (8-10, 3-4) can wrap up the third seed with a victory over Fort Knox tonight and a John Hardin win over Elizabethtown.
“They picked up the pressure in the second half,” Squires said. “We played with a lot of intensity the second quarter, but we didn’t play the same way the second half. We need to put a whole game together mentally and physically. We need to play a full game, but you have to give them credit for the way they played the second half.”
The Trojans were staring at a nine-point deficit for the second consecutive game. Against Elizabethtown, they trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter. In three of their five district wins, the Trojans have had to rally in the second half.
It didn’t take North Hardin long to erase Central Hardin’s lead. Landry made 1-of-2 free throws and sophomore Tyronn King made a floater in the lane. After a layup by Central Hardin junior Dillon Glenn, Landry had a putback and senior guard Ruben Gosa made a layup to slice the lead to 35-31 with 6:11 remaining.
Central Hardin senior Alex Crowder, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, made an acrobatic layup, but the Trojans reeled off eight consecutive points, the last two on a pair of free throws by Lewis for a 39-37 lead, North Hardin’s first since 3 minutes left in the second quarter.
After senior Cody Elmore drained a 3-pointer from the right baseline to lift the Bruins to a 40-39 lead, senior Scotty Sterusky and Gosa had back-to-back layups in the final minute of the quarter for a 43-40 lead.
“I thought a big key was we played with a little heart the second half,” North Hardin coach Ron Bevars said. “I thought they outscrapped us and outworked us in the second quarter. We got up big and we kind of thought it was going to be easy. I was glad to see us come back and show a little grit.”
The Trojans didn’t relinquish the lead. Although Central Hardin pulled within one on four occasions in the final 8 minutes, North Hardin had an answer each time to hold the Bruins at bay. The Bruins had a chance to tie in the waning seconds but turned the ball over.
“That shows you the value of every possession,” Central Hardin coach J.C. Wright said. “We live and die by working hard. We have to execute. That shows up when you turn the ball over. I thought we battled and played with heart. We fought, but we have to put a full four quarters together. We had a couple of breakdowns on the defensive end. But give North Hardin credit – they made some big shots the fourth quarter.”
The Trojans jumped out to a 16-4 lead, but Central Hardin cut the lead to six at the end of the first quarter and the Bruins outscored North Hardin, 23-8 in the second quarter to build a 33-24 lead.
UP NEXT: North Hardin hosts Adair County at 7:30 tonight. Central Hardin plays at Fort Knox at 7:30 tonight.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.